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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

That Sneaky Red Cross

The Today Show keeps featuring this couple, Ann and Vernon, who lived in Mississippi and lost their house. They have cute accents and love to talk to Lester Holt. Today Ann was showing him a crumpled glob of toilet paper that she and Vernon were coveting. They said it's an in-demand commodity.

All the death, destruction and looting has made me sad but this made me really sad. I wanted to reach through the TV and give them one of my 124 rolls of toilet paper. I mean, not having TP is a new low. In fact, Vernon suspects the people in their shelter will soon riot. I don't blame them.

So I donated a little bit of money to the Red Cross, thinking that would make me feel better. But I really want to physically help somehow. I could serve food, clean, and even hand out rolls of toilet paper. But here's the thing, when you call the Red Cross you can't be picky about which disaster you want to help with. So they could say, "Oh, you want to help out in the Dallas area?" and I would say, "Yes, I hear there are some shelters here..." and they would say, "That would be great. Someone's house caught fire in South Dallas last night. You could go there and sweep up some of that mess..." And I can't say, "No, Red Cross! I don't want to help just anybody, only victims of Hurricane Katrina. Don't you know there's a TP crisis going on there?" I'd just have to get my broom and go.

This is not the first time those sneaky Red Cross people have pulled one over on me. After the Aggie Bonfire I tried to give blood. Yeah, me and the rest of Central Texas. So I get there and there's this long line and I say, "Oh, do you have enough blood now?" and they say, "We're always in need of more blood." And you can't say, "But I don't want my blood to go to someone who was just in some isolated car accident. It must go to an Aggie! An Aggie who was hurt in the bonfire!" I mean, you just can't place these demands on the Red Cross. So there I was, getting a needle poked in my arm for who? I sure don't know.

I fell for it again after 9/11. I was trying to give blood to the people of New York and Washington D.C. but who knows where they sent it? Probably to some kid in Dallas who hurt himself jumping on a trampoline. I mean, he should have known better! Does he really deserve my blood?

The Red Cross isn't the only sneaky organization. I had an incident at Sephora too. Yeah, the fancy beauty store. We were putting together a care package for a friend who had survived breast cancer and we went there to get some lip gloss. It's not that she really needed shiny lips but apparently the proceeds of this particular lip gloss would go to breast cancer research. So we ask the salesperson about it and he says, "I don't know about that but we do have some lip gloss that benefits 9/11." Oh, so now I can help the victims of 9/11? Great. I'm focusing on breast cancer here! One cause at a time please.

I guess all you can really do is hope that if you're helping out in some other way (like giving blood to trampoline boy), they'll have more resources to go to the cause you really want to serve. I know, helping out indirectly doesn't feel like much. But in the end, it means that Ann and Vernon will get their TP.

Come on, blog readers, I know you have at least $20. And older blog readers, it IS safe to use your credit card over the Internet:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Express Lane Exasperation

I shop at a "Signature" Kroger. What does that mean? I think it means that they have a special organic section that attracts flies. And I'm pretty sure it means everything is at least $.37 more than at a non-signature location. It should also mean that the people are very classy and considerate. But it doesn't. I found that out yesterday when I went through the Express Lane.

You've probably noticed that the Express Lane has evolved over the years. It used to require that you had minimal groceries and that you paid in cash. I know, cash? I haven't carried cash since the Clinton administration. So now you can pay with a credit card and even a check (yeah, not since the first Bush administration). But the minimal groceries? That's a keeper.

So in this particular Express Lane the sign said very clearly "15 items or less." I had seven (I came in for just six but thought I'd try one of those Kashi Crunch cereal bars in the fly-infested organic section. I'll let you know how it works out). I got in line and noticed that the lady in front of me was unloading a whole cart full of groceries. Now if you have trouble counting to 15 here's a good little trick: If your shopping trip warranted a cart, you don't belong in the Express Lane.

So what did I do? I glared at her. And I wasn't the only one. The Signature Kroger Cashier (SKC) did too. When she handed the Express Lane Liar (ELL) her receipt she rolled her eyes and said, "You saved $10.68." Here's another handy trick: if you saved more than a $1, you don't belong in the Express Lane (Hey, I think I've got a Jeff Foxworthy-style routine on my hands: "If you need help out with your groceries...If you have to lift a case of beer from the bottom of your cart...If there's no room on the conveyor belt to put one of those divider sticks...)

When it's my turn the SKC starts to rant, "You know, people like her make me so mad. She knew EXACTLY what she was doing. She acts like she's entitled. That's what gets me. I wish I had said something." I said, "I wish I had said something too, SKC." When I carried my seven items to my car (see? no need for assistance) I thought of all the things I could have said to ELL:

"I don't want to start a grocery store brawl but you have way more than 15 items."

"Um, excuse me. Maybe you didn't see the giant sign that's lit up above us? It says 15 items or less. And yes, I'm counting your pack of 72 paper towels as one item but you're still over the limit."

"I'm gonna go ahead and read this Star magazine cover to cover because that's how long it's gonna take to ring up your 15+ items!"

I'm really mad at myself for not saying anything. I'm like one of those victims in a Lifetime or Oxygen movie who doesn't report the crime and then the best friend says, "But if you don't tell, he'll do it to other girls." That's me. I'm letting ELL hurt other Signature Kroger shoppers.

But I'm not giving up. I'm going to go to the SK every day until I find another ELL. Then I'm going to tell them how I feel. And I encourage you, blog readers, to do the same. You can even borrow some material from my routine: "If you have time to run back to the frozen aisle to get the Hot Pockets you forgot..."

Monday, August 29, 2005

I hear ya, kids of New Orleans

Preface added on 8/30: Please note I wrote this blog before Katrina got all Tsunami-ish. Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes are obviously not the "fun" ones I'm describing from my childhood. Give me a Cat 3 like 1983's Hurricane Alicia. Okay, carry on:

Growing up near Galveston, TX meant that every year we faced the threat of a hurricane. On the news today you're seeing the scary side of a hurricane: flooding, destruction, even death. But to kids, hurricanes are a blast. When I was a kid they were definitely my natural disaster of choice.

Naming it:
At the beginning of hurricane season the newspaper puts out this brochure that lists all the names for the year. First things first, I would have to see if Elsa was on the list. And you only have a chance every other year because each letter alternates between boy names and girl names. I think Elsa would make a great hurricane name but it never made the cut. Luckily, neither did my sister's name, Kristin. And if you're name is, let's say,'re screwed. Even if they do name a hurricane after you, it's not likely that they're ever going to use it.

Preparing for it:
I guess technology wasn't as, well, hi-tech as it is now because there were a lot of hurricanes that we thought were going to hit but didn't. So you still get to go through all the fun of bracing for the hurricane like buying up water, can goods, batteries and then boarding up your house. Now this doesn't sound like much fun but remember when the lights would go out in school and everybody cheered? It's kinda like that. Which brings me to one of the biggest perks of being a hurricane kid.

Escaping it:
It's simple. Hurricanes = vacation. You get to miss school and go somewhere fun. My family always went to New Braunfels. Then we would sit in a hotel room and watch coverage of the hurricane. Now you may think we sound sick but as kids, we would hope that the hurricane would hit our area. Why? Because if it actually did hit, we didn't have to make up for the missed day of school. But if it didn't, there went our Labor Day or MLK day.

Returning to it:
When we would go back to our house after a hurricane, the electricity and the air conditioning would be out. Nightmare, right? No way. We'd all sleep in the living room, light some candles...throw in some s'mores and we've got a camping trip.

So hurricane Katrina may bring with it devastation and destruction...but that's for the grown-ups to deal with. The kids get to miss school, go on vacation and then have a camping adventure. Trust me, kids of Katrina, there are plenty of kids in Galveston who are way jealous right now. Well, except the ones named Sally.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Stars--they're just like US!

I have to say, the highlight of my week is when my Us magazine arrives in my mailbox. It must get here by Monday or it throws off my whole routine (and then my friends at Us will inevitably get a nasty email from me). You see, I read it while doing the elliptical machine on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And if I dare pick it up before that, then my week's ruined. Frank will sometimes start to flip through it (amateur!) but when he says something like, "Jessica's butt looks big in this picture," I say, "Shhhh! Don't spoil it for me!"

And when Tuesday comes and it's just me and Us, I don't just jump to the Brangenlina story like some sort of savage. I read it from the first page to the middle (usually making it to "The Record" which is all the news...not as many pictures).

But by far my favorite section is "Stars--they're just like Us!" This week I learned that Jessica Simpson tried on new clothes. Hey, sometimes I try on new clothes! Except she ended up spending $11,000 in one spree. I haven't spent that much on clothes in my entire life. And I'm counting the days of Z Cavaricci. Then there's Eva Longoria who towels off after swimming in the pool. Me too, Eva! Nobody likes a wet bathing suit. Except you're at the Hotel Roosevelt (where all the stars who are just like Us sunbathe) and if I went to a hotel pool where I didn't have a room (even, let's say, the Courtyard Marriot) I would get kicked out. And there's Cindy Crawford. She "chows down" just like me! It says she even helped her kids finish their food. Cindy, I love to grub too. But clearing off other people's plates? I mean, I at least wait until after they leave.

It's great to know that these people, who are like my imaginary friends, do normal things that could make them my real friends. I mean, Paris Hilton and I could pump gas together. Hey, Teri Hatcher, wanna take out the trash? Kate Hudson, I don't sew but I'll shop for yarn with you and Uma Thurman! Those big celebrities are just so down to earth. I bet they print out my blog and read it while they're on the elliptical machine. Stars--they're just like Elsa!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why Kelly Clarkson Rocks

Hello. And thank you for joining me for another installment of "Why somebody rocks." Today our focus is on Kelly Clarkson. You may think that just because she was the first American Idol and her songs are poppy and her look overstyled that she doesn't rock. But she does.

Let's go back to when we first met Kelly on American Idol circa 2002. I voted for her like 300 times each night. You're welcome, Kelly. Then when she won and had to sing "A Moment like This" and she couldn't get through it because she was crying, I cried too! Then I wouldn't stop singing the song and my friends threatened to tape my mouth shut. But I kept on singing. And now when I hear it on commercials for Sandals Beach Resorts, I shed a tiny tear.

Kelly won because her voice rocked. She wasn't all that hot then--a little pudgy thing with mousy brown hair. But natch, after she won the record studio got a hold of her and fixed her up--highlights, fake lashes, trainer.

I was happy for Kelly but felt bad for her too: she had risen to fame too fast and surely she couldn't last post Idol. And then when I heard her album wouldn't come out for six more months (because she had to tour with Idol pals like Justin "that stylist won't get a hold of me" Guarini), I thought she was doomed.

But then her album came out and there were all these hits. And then her second album came out and there were even more hits. Really, almost every song you hear on the radio is by Kelly Clarkson:

Miss Independent, Low, the Trouble with Love is, Breakaway, Since U Been Gone (seriously, she spells it with a U. How cool is she?) and Behind these Hazel Eyes

Want more proof? She's the first artist in the Billboard Radio Monitor era to hold the No. 1 spot at Mainstream Top 40 and Adult Contemporary during the same week with two different songs (Breakaway and Since U Been Gone). Yep. I do research for my blog.

You know, I almost met Miss Clarkson one time. In 2003 she came to the ad agency where I was working to do press interviews for her movie "From Justin to Kelly" (Yes, that was a mistake. But we're talking about why she rocks, not why she's a bad actress.) So she's there and I so could have walked up and gone all gaga but I didn't know what to say. So when I was coming back from lunch I heard her song "Miss Independent" on the radio and I thought I could say, "Hi! I just heard your song on the radio!" So I told my plan to my friend Theresa and she said, "Yeah, I'm sure nobody ever says that to her." And I got nervous again. But then Theresa ran into her in the bathroom. Kelly was in a stall but had to turn on all the faucets in the sink in order to go. Apparently, she gets the stage fright.

So to recap (in case I may have digressed), here is why Kelly Clarkson rocks:
--She has a killer voice
--Her songs are consistently awesome
--Her songs are hits
--She has a hot new look
--Even though she gets stage fright in the bathroom, she doesn't get it onstage

Kelly, keep up the good work and you might just find yourself married to an unemployed back-up dancer, pregant and eating Cheetos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Workin' 9-5. (Or 10-3 if you're a mid-day DJ )

My job as a freelance writer is pretty cool. But I've had jobs that have really sucked: cashier at Michael's Arts and Crafts, car hop at Sonic, telemarketer and the worst...outside sales person.

It was the memory of that job that lead me to create this list: the best and worst jobs ever. It's a study I've conducted. My method of obtaining this information? It's my opinion as a person who has had both cool and crappy jobs. I'd like to share the results with you:

Let's start with the bad news (especially if you actually have one of these jobs):

--Outside Sales Person (big surprise): "Outside" doesn't necessarily mean that you are outside but that you have to seek sales yourself rather than having them come to you (inside). But if you are outside, like I was, it's even worse. In my sales job, my boss didn't think I was bringing in enough business so he asked me to bring him 15 business cards the next day--to prove that I had actually been out in the community, pestering people to buy overpriced ad space. I went to the local Mexican restaurant, picked up their fish bowl full of biz cards and brought the cards to my boss. Oops, forgot to take them out of the fish bowl. So I just dumped them out and put the fish bowl on his head. Wait, that was my fantasy. In reality I just quit the damn job.

--Anything at a Big Corporation: My husband says, "I like working for the man." And it's true, there is security in working for companies like computer giants in Austin, airlines in Irving and salty snack makers in Plano (but I don't mean to imply any particular companies nor do I or anyone in my family have a history with them). But if you work for a big corporation, you inevitably will work with people who say things like, "Hey. I see you're wearing a blue button-down shirt too. You must have gotten the memo" or "It's Tuesday. Just four more days till Friday!" or "Saw your funny email. You must have WAY too much time on your hands!" It's just not worth it.

--Home Depot and or Lowe's Sales Associate: When I see those guys it takes me back to my Michael's Arts and Crafts days, where just because I was wearing an official-looking smock, people thought I had the answers to all of their arts and crafts problems. I didn't know where anything was in the store and if I did, I certainly didn't know what to do with it. Same goes for these home improvement places except the stores are seven times as big and the questions are way more complicated. Good news: Everytime someone asks where something is, the smocked sales associate always personally walks them there. And that's a hell of a lot of cardio.

And now the good news. Except none of you are qualified for any of these jobs:

--Co-host of Live with Regis and Kelly: Please note that not all hosting gigs are as good as this one: Katie Couric, for example, has to host for three hours which requires her to get up at like 4am and she has to know about all sorts of stuff from politics to health news to bad movies. But Kelly just has to host for one hour and all she has to do is chit chat with Regis for about 14 minutes, chit chat some more with a cool celebrity guest for 8 minutes, listen to a band play for 4 minutes and the rest is commercials. Why she would choose to spend the rest of her day taping a mediocre sitcom is beyond me. I'd run outta there at 10am yelling, "Woo hoo! Mark Conseulos, let's go cash my check and go home!"

--Duchess: Again, don't get carried away and think all royalty has it made. Being a princess or a queen is no good--too much responsibility, too much exposure. Being the duchess of a small country is the way to go. You still have all the perks: clothes, great house, plenty of fancy's like you're on vacation all the time. If you do happen to become a duchess, don't ruin it by being a spokesperson for Weight Watchers. Just hide out in your castle eating cheese!

--Mid-Day DJ: Sure, the morning and evening DJs are on the air during the popular drive times but all that means is you either have to get up early or refuse all invitations to happy hour. Think about it, if you're the afternoon DJ, you get up about 9am, work from 10am-3pm and then go home in plenty of time for Oprah. You could even hit the gym but why? Nobody sees you!

Thank you for reviewing the findings of my study. I know what you're thinking: with research results as well-calculated and analyzed as this, I must have way too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Me, the V.I.P.

The first time I heard the acronym V.I.P. was when I attended the annual air show at Ellington Airforce Base with my friend, Jaime. Her dad was a V.I.P. in his own right at Ellington and had brought us along.

I was about 8-years-old and I didn't give a crap about airplanes, their silly tricks or even those Blue Angel guys. What I did like was the shiny ribbon safety pinned to my Osh Kosh B'Gosh shirt. It was blue and it said "V.I.P." in gold lettering. Jaime told me it stood for "Very Important Person" and I laughed. That Jaime. She was silly. I didn't tell her it was probably some airplane lingo.

But I did feel awfully important in that fancy tent with--get this--all the free cheese we could eat! And we got to sit in chairs while other people sat on beach towels or even just the grass. I had arrived.

That's not the only time I've been a V.I.P. I can identify at least three other V.I.P. moments:

Los Angeles, July 2000: Now we did happen to be in Malibu on the exact same day that Jen and Brad got married but alas, that's not my V.I.P. story. That evening Frank and I went out in L.A. and for some reason got in a long line at a Japanese night club. They must not have been charging cover. So we're the only white people in this long line and suddenly, the bouncer walks to the back of the line (and like I said, it was long, like down the street) and taps ME on the shoulder. He says, "You. Come to the front of the line." I asked if Frank could come too and he nodded. When we got to the front they just let us right in the club. The club was crowded and loud and there was nothing particularly interesting about it--but I loved walking past that long line of people! I think they were trying to fill some blonde quota! Or maybe they thought I was famous. Yes, that's it. We'll go with Britney (hey, it WAS five years ago before she was super preggo).

Salt Lake City, February 2002: It was the Winter Olympics and our friend Mark's parents were on the committee. Now I'm really more of a Summer Olympics gal (with floor exercise aspirations of my own) but hey, I'm not complaining. Mark's parents put us up in a condo in Park City and when we got there, we were so hooked up: not only were there all kinds of snacks (you can see that free food is a recurring theme in my V.I.P. moments) but there was official Olympic gear: I'm talking all the Roots stuff like t-shirts, pullovers and hats. I love that stuff! I still wear it all the time. Then we got free tickets to the men's skiing event. I had never even seen anybody ski before--honest! I totally froze my butt off but it was fun drinking hot chocolate, watching the event and being a V.I.P. There was no ribbon involved but we had one of those lanyards with a pass on it--even cooler.

New York to Rome, June 2005: Now I've flown domestic first class before since Frank used to work for American Airlines. But I've never flown International first class. And I didn't this time either--but I hear it's incredible. On this particular flight, they didn't have first class, only business class which is a step up from domestic first class but not as good as international first class. Get it? But it doesn't matter because we were still the highest class on the plane. So again, we got hooked up by Mark who still works for American. He gave us passes and ooh, was I excited to sit up in the front row in a chair big enough for me, Frank and maybe a child. But it was all mine. As I got comfy in my seat, I noticed that I really enjoy that soothing music they play before take-off--you know, like the sounds of the ocean?

And then the flight attendants just started shoving cool things at us:

--Our little overnight kit with socks, eye mask, ear plugs
--A mini-DVD player with Bose headphones and a catalog of movies
--A pre take-off glass of champagne
--And food--my God the food! It never stopped--the warm peanuts, an appetizer, spinach canneloni, dessert...and then there was a humungo breakfast just a few hours later.

I didn't get a ribbon there either or even stick-on airplane wings. But I did save my boarding pass. I gazed at it on our return trip home--where I sat in coach, in the middle of the long row of seats, listening to that irritating nature music.

Monday, August 22, 2005

How to be the homecoming queen of your office

Sadly, I was not the homecoming queen of my high school. Nor was I even in the running. And I thought popularity contests were over the day I entered the work force. Wrong. I found that out on my first day working at an advertising agency.

In advertising everybody is young, fun and has suspiciously expensive designer clothes on sub 30K salaries. So when I met my new team of attractive 20-somethings and they told me that the day before they had all gone to lunch and drank margaritas, I thought, "Yep. I knew I chose the right career."

That was before I realized that they didn't like me. My clues? On the first day one of my co-workers, Jill, declined to go to my "welcome" lunch, claiming she had brought her own yogurt. At first I blamed a nasty eating disorder but then I decided she just must not like me. Then for the next few days they would sneak off to lunch together and not invite me. And, of course, there was the whispering in the cubes that was surely about me.

But one day someone told me that Jill (skinny yogurt girl) said, "Elsa is so funny. I just love having her around." So people DID like me. And Jill DID have an eating disorder after all! Hurray. It was weird--as soon as I convinced myself that people liked me, I started acting more like myself--which, I have to say, is quite likable. Slowly I started feeling more comfortable around my other co-workers and was even invited to go to lunch with them (where we never did have margaritas).

So I learned a couple of things:

1. I was probably imagining all of this hatred towards me.
2. If you think people like you, you have more confidence and can truly be yourself.

I applied this knowledge at my next two advertising agency jobs. I'd start the first day with a Sally Field-like mantra, "They like me. They really like me!" And sure enough, they did. I mean, they don't give out crowns at offices but I'm sure I'd at least be in the running.

And it's not just because of my newfound confidence trick. There are other secrets to office popularity:

When you work in an office, you usually need things from your co-workers: paperwork, reports, presentations...In advertising I mainly needed artwork from creatives. And those guys are tough. So if I asked for a layout every time I went into an art director's office, he/she would surely start to think of me as that annoying girl who always needed something. So you gotta alternate it: Sometimes you just talk to them about their kids, sometimes about their brilliant talent and believe it or not, sometimes you should even talk about yourself. People like it when they feel like you're letting them in on your personal life.

And when in doubt, bring breakfast burritos.

Take it from me, a girl who's climbed the ladder of office popularity. Thanks to my confidence, office social skills and surprise snacks, I've had elaborate birthday cube decorations, more cakes than I can count, one over the top wedding shower and a freakin' video in my honor when I left my last job. Oh, and I've made a lot of friends.

And those 20-somethings from my first job? They're mostly 30-somethings now and I count some of them as my very best friends--I was even in two of their weddings. One day I confided to one of my best friends and former co-workers Alicia about my paranoia when I first started working there--how I foolishly thought everybody didn't like me. Instead of telling me I was crazy, Alicia said, "Oh, that's true. We didn't like you at first."

WHAT? Sure they didn't. And Jill didn't have an eating disorder.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mansionize me!

Frank and I recently moved into an enormous house. Well, it's not enormous by most standards but before we were in a duplex and before that I lived in a 540 square foot apartment. So it feels really big. Plus, we have three toilets which means we're really livin' the dream.

In fact, I'm afraid our house may be contributing to an epidemic called "The Mansionization of America."

Here are some stats I got from our friends at CNN:

Back in 1950, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the average new house clocked in at 963 square feet. By 1970, that figure had swollen to 1,500 square feet.
Today's average: 2,400 square feet. One in five are more than 3,000 square feet.

Aw, man. We're below the average! We're not contributing to the problem one bit. Darn.

You may wonder, especially if you live in one of those neighborhoods with the word "estate" in it and the houses are actually as big as our duplex, why people would need such big houses.

I used to wonder that myself until I visited a house yesterday that is very guilty of contributing to the mansionization of America--by about 11,000 square feet. It's my friend Liz's parents house and I have to say, every square foot of that house, right down to the TWO laundry rooms, served a purpose.

When Liz took me on the tour I felt like we were on MTV's Cribs. Except it wasn't a minor celebrity's house and there weren't a bunch of mooching friends doing drugs by the pool.

Its most Crib-esque features included:
A media room--natch
Five bedrooms, each with its own bathroom (and I thought three toilets was the bomb!)
A cool screened-in porch that had insidey furniture + heaters like they have at restaurants
An exercise room--complete with a treadmill, elliptical, bike and one of those complicated lifting machines that has four sides and nobody ever uses.
A butler's pantry (love those but butler not included).
Back staircase (so necessary if you don't want to actually see "the help" face to face)
Best part: Master bath had two sides so there were his and her vanities, showers and toilets. My very own toilet! Now that's the dream!

Let's pause to do a toilet tally: two half-baths, five bedrooms plus remember there's two in the master = EIGHT toilets. That means you could use a different one every single day of the week. A Monday toilet, a Tuesday toilet, Wednesday toilet...

I'm trying to convince her parents to let Frank and me move in. We could live in the guest wing. We'd use the upstairs laundry room and we'd even take the back stairs with the other servants.

But until then we'll just have to settle for our below average square foot non-mansion--in a neighborhood with the name "Villas" in it. And just think, if we share with our neighbors on both sides, we too could have days of the week toilets. That's a whole different kind of dream.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Meet my gym friends

When I worked out at the YMCA in Austin, I had a pretty good network of friends who were all in the 55+ category. Now that I'm in Dallas I sure do miss my workout pals like Woodie the lawyer and Sydney the sculptor.

The good news is that I've joined a new gym (24 hour fitness) and made lots of new friends. Well, I haven't actually talked to any of them yet but I know all about them and I'd like to introduce you to them:

Uni: She's in my spin class and I call her Uni for two reasons: 1. She does her own spin routine rather than following the teacher's instructions. She rides her bike standing up for the full hour. Anal Elsa doesn't mind this at all! It wouldn't take long for a Sesame Street viewer to identify "which of these kids is doing their own thing." 2. She wears a unitard. Nuff said.

Clepto Clarice: CC likes to steal people's spin bikes, especially mine. The other day I got my bike all set up (which is a big pain in the unitard) and sat down on the ground right next to it to put on my fancy spin shoes. Right after I secured the last velcro, I looked up to find CC making herself comfortable on my bike, right next to her friend. Uni. So I said, "Hey! Could you not see that I was sitting right next to that bike? I mean, if you pedaled you would have run me over!" Okay, I didn't say that. I just got all huffy and went to another bike. But don't think I didn't give her the evil eye.

OCD Olivia: This chick is about 45 and addicted to running on the treadmill. I'm not really consistent about what time I go to the gym but OCD Olivia is ALWAYS there. This leads me to believe she either works out several times a day or she lives there (I mean it is open 24 hours). Olivia is super skinny and runs faster than anyone else on the treadmill. Plus, she's on it for like hours. One day, I was on this new machine called the treadclimber (Don't ask. Well, if you must know it's like a cross between a treadmill and an elliptical.) Anyway, Olivia was in front of me on the treadmill. I saw her stats--she had run 8 miles! Can you imagine? Eight miles and all you saw the whole time were the ladies of The View? So she gets off the treadmill and asks me if I'm almost done with the treadclimber. I told her, "No, I still have 20 more minutes but haven't you done enough today, Olivia?" Well, I said something like that.

Lisp girl: Oh, yeah-you aleady know Caithlyn from another blog. But I still can't get over her screwed up name, can you?

Screwed up Steve: Now in this case, I've really got his name right. At least the Steve part. He's also in spin class and he's like the class clown. He's very vocal about how he hates the gangsta rap they play which is what he calls anything from 50 Cent to Kelly Clarkson. Also, he keeps his towel in his mouth the whole time. Maybe so he can prevent himself from growling at Uni.

So there you have it. My new workout friends. I'm already dressed to go to the gym and visit (well spy on) all of them. I'll tell them you said hello. I gotta get going. This unitard is really ridin'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Why Hall & Oates Rock

I'm going to start a semi-regular series on why certain bands (or solo acts) rock. It's not going to be monthly, semi-monthly, bi-weekly or every third Wednesday. Just whenever the music moves me.

Today I'd like to tell you why Hall & Oates rock. And I will do that by sharing with you a little story from my childhood:

In second grade I had this music teacher named Mrs. Davis and she was scary. Every day when we came into her class we had to sing this little chant with her:

Mrs. Davis: "Hello Boys and Girls" (remember, she's singing)
2nd graders: "Hello Mrs. Davis" (we're singing too)
Mrs. Davis "1 2 3 4 5"
2nd graders: "1 2 3 4 5"
Mrs. Davis: "5 3 1"
2nd graders: "5 3 1"

Now that doesn't sound too scary, right? But the first day she just started singing and we didn't know what to do. She wouldn't tell us that we were supposed to echo her so we just stared. We did nothing that day except listen to her sing "Hello Boys and Girls" over and over again. She thought we were musical morons.

Also, more proof that she was scary: one day I guess we were playing a round of "name that tune" and it was Neil Diamond's "Heartlight." I raised my hand and shouted "It's the E.T. song!" And she said "No. That's not correct." Come on, she could at least say, "Close, but that's not the exact title." I got no credit!

So one day this girl Sarah was crying in music class. The reason she was crying was this whole long domestic problem that I won't go into. But trust me, she had reason to cry. So Mrs. Davis started singing this song "Sara Smile." We hadn't heard of it so she told us she would bring in the record (yep, we had records back in my day!)

Well each day she would forget to bring in the record and we second graders were getting restless. Finally, Mrs. D said if she forgot it again, we could each get a penny. And she did forget it. And we all got a penny. We were really excited which means it was either a long time ago or we were a bunch of little match kids.

So when she finally brought it we totally dug it. She played it every day. I don't think Sarah ever smiled but like I said, her life was pretty crappy.

Years later (when pennies were coins you considered throwing away when you found them), I heard a band cover "Sara Smile" and I liked it even more. And not just because it's a song on the sountrack of my life, because it's a freaking good song.

Then just this past year Hall and Oates were guests on American Idol and one of the little Idol wannabes sang "She's Gone" and I thought, "I don't know which one is Hall and which one is Oates but these guys rock!" A radio station started playing clips of their songs the next morning including "Sara Smile." I didn't even know those two poofy-haired guys sang one of my all-time faves!

And what's more, I knew a lot of their other songs and you probably do too:

Rich Girl (You can rely on your old man's money, you can rely on something something honey)
Kiss on my List (Because your kiss is on my list, when I turn out the lights)
You Make my Dreams (You make my dreams come true. Woo-ooh, Wooh, Wooh)
Private Eyes (with the hand clapping!)
Maneater (Watch out boys, she'll chew you up)
I Can't go for That (No Can Do)

Are you having that same realization that I had? That you're like the biggest Hall and Oates fan ever?

I had to do it. I bought HO's (really, they call themselves that) greatest hits album: Rock 'n Soul Part I. I jam to it in my car but I really get pumped up when the #2 song plays: "Sara Smile."

So I wanna thank Mrs. Davis (Hello Mrs. Davis. 1 2 3 4 5!), Sarah (who hopefully is smiling by now) and of course Daryl and John. These guys are old enough to remember when half-pennies were worth getting excited about. But they still rock.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What is in a name?

I like my name. I think Elsa is different but still easy to say, easy to spell. But apparently not easy to read.

Everyday when I go into 24 fitness, they scan my card and give me a new name: Elisa, Alyssa, Elsie...yesterday I was Elise.

All of these names have EXTRA letters in them. I understand not seeing a letter but adding one? That's just making it harder on yourself.

And there's a girl who works at 24 Fitness whose name is Caithlyn. Wait. Did you see that? There IS an extra letter in her name. A random H! CaitHlyn. I'm sure she's grateful to her mom and dad for giving her a lisp everytime she introduces herself.

Now when I say my name the response is always the same: "Nice to meet you, Allison." I used to think that was weird until I worked with a girl named Allison and always thought people were asking for me. They do sound alike. Not that I don't immediately correct them.

My friend Thea is in a similar predicament as you can imagine. She gets "Thee-uh" all the time which I admit is annoying but also understandable. What's not understandable is the response she gets when she introduces herself: "Nice to meet you, Pam." Pam?? When Thea first told me this I thought she was crazy...or deaf. But then I noticed when I would talk about her people thought I was saying Pam!

Now don't even get me started on my last name. Now look what you did. You got me started. My maiden name was hard enough: Weidman, pronounced Wideman. If people acutally pronounced it correctly I just thought they were stupid (or fluent in German which wasn't likely). I mean, it doesn't look like Wideman!

So when I got married I acquired an equally confusing name: Simcik. What? Sim-chick? Sim-chee? Sim-sike? No, Sim-sick. And the name Elsa Simcik is just too S'y, am I right?

I had to call our health insurance provider the other day and after 27 minutes of holding, they finally answered and said, "Who am I speaking with?" Now I need to understand why they are asking this. Are they just being friendly? Or are they going to look me up? Because if they're going to look me up I'll need to spell it slowly. Since I didn't know, I just said, "Elsa Simcik." She kept asking me to repeat it and I kept saying, "Elsa Simcik." Finally, she said, "Do you need an interpreter?"

That's how screwed up my name is! People either think my name is Alyssa Sim-chee or they figure I'm foreign.

Wait till my friend Pam hears about this.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Go, Grannies Go!

We all know that women live longer than men but I've got actual proof:

Together, Frank and I have four living grandmothers and no grandfathers. These grandmothers of ours have all even come close to death but survived. Some owe it to exercise, some to a sharp mind and one to pimento cheese.

Let's start with Grandma Valerie, Frank's maternal grandmother. Ninety may be just around the corner but Val is sharper than ever and she definitely deserves the "tech-savviest grandma" award. Armed with her very own desktop, Valerie emails, downloads pictures and I suspect she even visits some chat rooms but I can't be sure. Also, Valerie is a regular gym rat and when she can't make it to her aerobics class, she pushes a cart up and down the aisles of Target. Oh, I'd like to add that Valerie is sweet, soft-spoken and very pretty (Hey, she's the only grandmother of ours that may actually figure out how to read this blog! I've gotta suck up a little!)
Near Death Experience: Grandma Val drank a margarita on an empty stomach, passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital. She made sure she survived that so as to avoid the inevitable "Grandmother drinks herself to death" headlines.

My maternal grandmother isn't quite as active as Grandma Valerie. Boyce lives in a home outside of Memphis where she spends most of her time reading and reading and then does a little more reading. I'd call her a bookworm but it's not just books--she loves the newspaper (even if it's not the most current), magazines and I'm pretty sure she would read an in-flight safety manual if we put it in front of her. I prefer to send her trashy romance novels. I think she and her roommate get a kick out of seeing the Fabio-esque model with the torn shirt on the cover. When I'm 80+, that's what I wanna be reading.
Near Death Experience: Boyce has fallen out of her wheel chair countless times but is still kickin'...well at least reading.

Our paternal grandmothers are quite the characters and both have the same goal in mind: to make us eat until we explode. I think they've got some sort of competition going.

Frank's "Nana" lives in Pittsburgh. Darlene/Nana is the mother of EIGHT children and when she's not talking about all of their great accomplishments, she's cooking. When we visit her in Pittsburgh we do four things: eat, play cards, go to mass and drink booze. Yes, she's quite the little bartender. Once she asked me if I'd like a glass of cranberry juice. I told her yes and she asked sweetly, "Would you like me to put some vodka in it?" Hey, Nana, you don't have to trick me into having a Cosmo. Even if it is noon and we just got back from mass. Don't let her love of liquor fool you--Nana is a devout Catholic and attends mass daily. She also likes to send the women in the family literature on her beliefs. Like the pamphlet I received on the evils of co-habitation. I would have been offended except she packed my favorite dessert (banana squares) in the box with it. Nana, bribery with sweets will get you everywhere. No shacking up for me!
Near Death Experience: Nana's the youngest of the four grandmothers so I don't think she's had one. Unless you count the near-heart attack she had when she learned one of her granddaughters was moving in with her boyfriend.

Last but not least is my grandmother, Lib. She's completely loony and it would take a year's worth of blogs to describe her. Grandma lives on the beach in North Carolina and has a great set up--except for the fact that she's a widow (but that's a fate we're all gonna face, am I right, ladies?) But she spends most of the day whining about her life and how it doesn't matter because she's "on her way out." That's pretty doubtful with the way she exercises. She's 83 and she walks a mile down the beach every day. She also rides her bike down the passing lane of the main road in her town (which she calls "the bicycle lane") to get her mail. But it's the jump roping that's the most impressive. Grandma jumps 1,800 jumps a day--900 in the morning and 900 at night. And she does it fast. It's amazing and a great party trick. And watch out if you're at her house, sitting on the couch. You may look down and see a little old lady crab-walking under your feet. I think this is good for the glutes and triceps. Grandma pushes food on us like we just came over from Niger. When we're eating lunch we're talking about what we're going to have for dinner. And at dinner we're planning our breakfast feast. And while we're stuffing our faces for fear of alienation or getting written out of a will, Grandma is nibbling on a half of a pimento cheese sandwich. That's all she ever eats. She must have more calcium than a dairy cow.
Near death experience: You name it: two bouts with cancer, a stroke and a tumble down a flight of stairs that the doctor said would usually kill someone her age. Yep, I think I need to stock up on some pimento cheese.

So there you have it. The four ladies that prove that females are the superior sex. Even if we're bossy, pushy and a little bit cooky.

Friday, August 12, 2005

My name is 969171. But you can call me 96.

I know it's lame to write about the same subject two days in a row but I'm quite the busy writinggal today...

Subway responded to me today on my mayonnaise issue--how prompt!

At the end they even give me my very own customer ID. It's inpsired my new nickname. I wonder what Jared's ID is?

Anyway, when you finally see labels on the mayonnaise bottles, you can thank me--96.

Dear Mrs. Simcik:Thank you for taking the time to contact us. I appreciate the fact that youtook the time and effort to share your insights and comments with us.Our customers provide us with valuable input, which we use to improve ouroperations.SUBWAY® Restaurants are always researching and introducing new products as well as improving on the products that are presently offered. All of the bottles of any type of dressing are to be labeled to avoid any confusion tothe customer as well as the employee. There shouldn't be any reason why you would have to question what an employee is preparing on your sandwich. Every customer should feel confident on their sandwich preparation.As part of our commitment to our customers we have shared your comments withour Marketing and Research & Development departments.Again, I appreciate you taking the time to contact us. SUBWAY® looks forward to your continued visits. Don’t forget to visit our web site at for completenutritional information on our nationally offered products.


Carmen Alvarado x1612

Customer Care Representative

Customer ID: 969171

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Please help me, Jared

I love Subway. In fact, when we drove to Houston this past weekend for my high school reunion, we ate it for dinner on Friday, for lunch on Saturday and almost ate it for lunch on Sunday until Frank retaliated.

I never get sick of it. I guess because I like so many different sandwiches: the roasted chicken is my fave but then I also like turkey, tuna...okay, that's it. But that's three!

And every time I choose Subway over another fast food, I feel satisfied with my decision and free of guilt. Then "Full Elsa" tells the future "Hungry Elsa" to just get Subway every time because it's plenty filling and so darn good.

Frank says when he was little his dad didn't let them get Subway because the kids never wanted to put anything on the sandwich. Therefore it wasn't worth the price.

"But it doesn't cost extra to get cucumbers!" his dad would say. "But I don't like cucumbers," Frank would answer. (He also didn't like lettuce or tomatoes or probably even mayonnaise).

And speaking of mayonnaise, that's my one issue with Subway. I always read things like:

Roasted Chicken= 330 Calories*

*Amount of calories without mayonnaise. With light mayonnaise = 380 calories. With real mayonnaise = 1,986 calories.

Ah! And thus begins my Subway fear. When I go through the line I try to ensure that I don't get stuck with the real mayonnaise. I ask the "sandwich artist" (who is really just a 15 year old with backne) for "fat free mayonnaise." They grab the first bottle they see with white substance and begin squirting it all over my 330 calorie sandwich. But how can I be sure they picked up the right bottle? I mean, they're not labeled and they look exactly the same! If they don't give the appropriate mayonnaise, I might as well be eating a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and some fries (no, make that a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, fries and a milkshake...and some of those little cookies).

So then I'll try to call it the exact name that Subway calls it, "Light." But when I say "Light Mayonnaise" to Picasso's Protégé, he again grabs a random bottle but then puts a very little amount of mayonnaise on my turkey sandwich. Usually I try to be really quiet about asking for light or fat free mayonnaise because I don't want to look like eating disorder girl. But this last time I just asked, "Hey, I see you're putting a light AMOUNT of mayonnaise but is it the fat free kind?" The artist formerly known as Jason answered, "Uh-huh."

I don't believe him!! He's lying to me! He's purposely sabotaging what could have been a 380 calorie sandwich by quintupling the amount of calories!

I'm seriously considering stealing some of those Kraft Fat Free mayonnaise pouches from Chick Fil-a (another place I love but it's always closed when I crave it), and carrying them in my purse.

Then I guess instead of eating disorder girl, I'll be crazy mayonnaise lady.

P.S. I sent this to our friends at Subway. CML

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

And a box of your finest merlot!

I used to make fun of people who drank wine out of the box. Not that I'm not cheap about a lot of other things:

--When we go on vacation, we only eat at Subway
--At the movies, I still try to get the student ticket (even though my ID is from 1995)
--I actually compare prices on canned food: "Oh, the Wal-Mart brand is only $.32 and the Del Monte is $.38. Fancy name brand mixed vegetables. Who needs 'em? I'll keep my $.06!"

But when it came to wine, I thought the box was a new low. I mean, I'm all for the oversized bottle or even the jug but wine in a box? That's scraping the bottom of

I'm here to tell you, blog readers, that I was wrong. I took a trip to Beverage City a few weeks ago and was enlightened. I was with Frank and Thea and Frank and I soon went into our typical wine debate:

"Should we get a big bottle?"
"I know it's cheaper per glass but when we open it we have to drink the whole bottle."
"Sometimes I just want one glass of wine, you know? Can I just have one glass and not have to drink the whole damn bottle like a wino??"

Thea came to our rescue: "Why don't you get a box?" she suggested. Interesting. Thea has Gucci purses and a fancy 4Runner with one of those navigational systems. Yet she was suggesting the box. What's more, she explained that the box could solve all of our problems: You can open it and not worry about having to drink the whole thing in a short time period. You can actually have one glass at a time! And get this:

A box of wine holds the equivalent of FIVE bottles and it's only about $12! If you assume four glasses of wine per bottle that's 20 glasses in a box. That's $.60 per glass. If I keep buying the Wal-mart brand mixed veggies I will save $.06 per can so after ten cans I've earned a glass of wine!

So as you can see, the box is truly an underappreciated invention.

And to adress the notion that boxed wine is poor quality, I say quality schmality. If it's good enough for my Gucci-loving, navigational system-using friend, then it's good enough for anybody.

Now I'm a little tired from all this writing and calculating, I'm gonna go have me some Wal-mart mixed veggies and a single glass of boxed vino. Or maybe two.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Reunion Recap

You may want to refer to a previous posting "Ten years = Ten times the fun?" in order to fully appreciate my reunion recap. In that posting I sorted out my feelings pre-ten year high school reunion. Now that I am in a post-ten year high school reunion state, I will address each comment on my con list:


--Even though I look better, I think I'll still be seen as that 88 pound girl who had to have her jaw broken just to look normal. And then go to school four days after the surgery wearing a teeth splint and sporting facial swelling/bruising. Thanks again, Mom and Dad.
--I did get a lot of "You haven't changed one bit" which is a confusing statement. Should I be insulted that they think I look like a shapeless teenager with doo-doo roll bangs? Nah. I'm just going to think that they mean I still weigh 88 pounds. Awesome! I'm a regular Mary Kate Olsen. Oh, and nobody mentioned the jaw surgery. At least not to my face.

--That cute successful husband of mine doesn't love to socialize. Will he need me to baby-sit him all night? I was completely off here. Frank was in full "Frank the Tank" form, socializing with everybody, especially his new favorite drinking buddy, Hence (my friend Misty's husband). In fact, many times I was asking, "Where did Frank run off to?"

--The girls I keep in contact with are way cooler than me so maybe I will be talking to my husband all night. Yes, they are way cooler but I found that being somewhat dorky was helpful. It gives you a wider audience for socializing.

--I didn't date anyone in high school so who am I going to show off my hot over 100 pound body to? No prob. I still strutted my stuff in a sexy dress. Although I'm not sure if anyone noticed.

I had made a mental list (not a laminated one or anything) of people I wanted to see at the reunion. Some were there. Some weren't. I'm not sure if he was on the list but Brad Jones (the guy who said I was the ugliest girl he'd ever seen) was not there. Dammit. I really wanted to find out how I would be ranked now but since everybody said I hadn't changed, I guess my ranking wouldn't either. Although to be fair, B.J. did make that comment in 7th grade and I think I changed more from 7th grade to 12th grade than in the last ten years. Oh, and I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning out my closet at my parent's house. And judging by some of the junior high pics I dug up, Brad wasn't too far off in making that statement.

If you've enjoyed reading about my reunion and are sad it's over, don't worry. Frank's is this weekend. And my school promises to have another one in ten years. It's gonna be a family picnic. Talk about stress. Not only do I have to find something cute to wear, I have to create some cute kids to show off. And if they're not cute, well I'll just have to keep them away from Brad Jones.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Literal Loss

There's a word in the English language that has been rendered useless. And it's because of people like you.

The word is "Literally" and I for one have boycotted it.

Definition: a manner that accords with the literal sense of the words.

You misuse the word in not just one, but two ways.

For example, some people use it when they don't mean literally at all. They just want to add emphasis to what they're saying: "The people were literally thrown to the wolves" or "I am so hungry I could literally eat a horse."

And some people (probably the same people) use it when it's very obvious that what they're saying should be taken literally: "I literally can't eat another bite" (sorry, it's always about food with me) or "I literally fell asleep at 9pm last night." Unlike our friends who observed the massive wolf attack and then feasted on an entire horse, these events are actually likely. In fact they are so likely that the word literally is quite unnecessary.

What if I had an actual occasion in which to use the word literally? Not that I would since I boycotted it but just imagine: I witness my husband eating an entire box of Krispy Kremes (again with the food). I may say to a pal, "Frank literally ate an entire box of Krispy Kremes" and because they would understandably assume that I meant 6 or 7 Krispy Kremes I would have to add, "No. I mean LITERALLY ate the entire box--like all twelve of them" (although I believe KK has 18 per box which is just disgusting).

As you can see using the word correctly is just too stressful. You've all ruined what could have been an effective tool of communication in our language. It just gets me so mad that I could literally run around like a chicken with my head cut off. Now that doesn't make any sense but I'm trying to make a point.

Please join me next time as we discuss the inconsistent use of first and third person voices in Christmas letters.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

An Army of Elsa

Let me just start by saying that I am crazy. Not crazy fun. Or even crazy psycho. But more like crazy in a regimented sort of way. I've realized over the last few months that I time everything.

For instance, when I'm drying my hair, I like to get it done in six minutes. I keep my sports watch in front of me and blow dry in 30-second increments: 30 seconds for the left side, 30 seconds for the right, 30 seconds to the back, flip it over, 30 more seconds. Now I do change it up sometimes and do 45 second increments or reverse the order. So at least I'm not scary regimented.

Today I was doing laundry and I decided I would try to transfer the clothes from the basket to the washer in five grabs. And then the same for the transfer from the washer to the dryer.

Eating is the worst. First of all, I don't eat during commercials. That wouldn't be a timing thing except I make it one. At breakfast time I prepare my food while the local news is playing on the Today Show (hate the local news; prefer the missing people, wedding planning, teacher sex scandals on the national show). I time my preparation just right so that when I sit down in front of the TV with my bowl of cereal, they're playing the commercials that run prior to the next Today show story. Then I patiently wait until the story begins before eating. Sometimes they trick me. Katie and Matt come back with a little teaser and I barely get two bites in before some pharmaceutical drug is flying around the screen.

If my food is too hot (usually a problem at dinner time), I estimate how long it will take to cool down and I time that before I take a bite. I try to get Frank to do this but he always eats his hot food and inevitably burns his mouth. The other night I asked him to just try it my way and you should have seen us--me watching my stop watch with him holding his fork in anticipation: "How much time do I have left?" he'd ask. "23 seconds!" I'd say, slapping his hand as he tried to take a premature bite.

What else do I time? Traffic lights, showers, online bill paying (hey, I got that from the Bank of America commercial) and don't get me started on work outs. After all I wouldn't be my own little army if I didn't start each day with boot camp.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ten years = Ten times the fun?

My ten year high school reunion is this weekend and I've got a pro/con list waddling around in my brain about it:

--I look better now than I did in high school. Sure I weighed less then but that weight was 88. Hardly sexy.

--I've got a cute and successful husband to show off.

--I still keep in contact with some friends from HS so at least I know I won't just be talking to my cute sucessful husband all night.

--I didn't date anyone in high school so I don't have to worry about any awkward introductions.

--Even though I look better, I think I'll still be seen as that 88 pound girl who had to have her jaw broken just to look normal. And then go to school four days after the surgery wearing a teeth splint and sporting facial swelling/bruising. Thanks again, Mom and Dad.

--That cute successful husband of mine doesn't love to socialize. Will he need me to baby-sit him all night?

--The girls I keep in contact with are way cooler than me so maybe I will be talking to my husband all night.

--I didn't date anyone in high school so who am I going to show off my hot over 100 pound body to?

I always thought ten years would be so long that we would forget who was cool, who wasn't, who peed their pants, who had the messed up jaw. But it really doesn't seem that long ago. In fact it seems like just yesterday that Brad Jones told my friend Kathy that I was the ugliest girl he had ever seen. And that was in junior high so it was like 15 years ago!

I told Frank (said cute successful husband) that his main job is to not let me get drunk. I can see the whole thing now: I've had about four glasses of wine, I spot Brad Jones across the room (who ironically was probably the ugliest guy I had ever seen in junior high and in this daydream still looks the same), walk over to him and say loudly, "Hey, Brad! See this??" (as I twirl in my backless dress), "You call this the UGLIEST girl you've ever seen?" And even if he's not as intoxicated as me, he has to admit I shouldn't be #1 anymore. I mean, come on. He's gotta at least give me the 2,000th ugliest... That's quite a jump in ten years. I'm proud. Go Wolverines.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Wheels on the Bus

When I was about 12-years-old, I decided I wanted to be a bus driver. I decided they had the cushiest career around. Think about it: They work for about an hour in the morning and then hour in the afternoon. During those two hours of work they get to drive around--an activity I would have to wait another four years to enjoy. And their means of transportation? A giant butt-kicking yellow above-ground submarine.

It was the down time I was most excited about--the hours between 8:15am and 3:15pm. Seven hours to go to the pool, watch soap operas, sleep. As a twelve-year-old I would make up little bus driver schedules in my head and map out how I would spend my day.

My dream of being a bus driver was really an inevitable one, what with all my meaningful mentors. First there was Ms. Ravy. Or Ms. Gravy Train as we cleverly nicknamed her. Even if Ms. Gravy Train arrived early to the first pick-up location (which happened to be my house), she wouldn't let us onto bus #16 until it was actually time to go. She'd sit about a block down the street and smoke. When we piled on the bus from my driveway (where our bookbags were already placed in order of who arrived first), the chariot smelled of smoke and sweaty kids. I tried not to look down but every day I found myself staring at Ms. Gravy Train's toe. The big one was missing a toenail. Did she have to wear open-toe shoes even in the winter? Or come to think of it, did she wear shoes at all? Another perk of being a bus driver.

Not sure what happened to Ms. Gravy Train but sometime around age ten we were blessed with Ms. Tilly. Yes, I know what you're thinking and yes, we did. We called her Ms. Tally Wacker. And yes, I did not know what that meant. She was a hippie--or as much as you could be in 1987. She had long straight hair and an equally long face. She brightened it up with frosted blue eye shadow. Ms. Tally Wacker was more lively than Ms. Gravy Train. So much that she would even let us go backwards which we thought was the next best thing to having Joey McIntrye make an appearance at our school. No, I don't mean the bus would go backwards. It's lamer than that. We would just do the stops backwards. Maybe I'm the only one who thought that was cool.

But besides the bus driving pioneers who were my inspiration like the Gravy Train and the Tally Wacker, what I really admired most about the vocation was the comraderie. No matter what, even if there was a blizzard (okay, that never happened in Houston, TX) or an impending traffic accident, if another bus passed us, our bus driver would always wave at the other driver.

I never did become a bus driver. But in a special tribute to bus 16 and the women whose names we mocked, when I see a passing bus, I always give its driver a little wave. Of course they're usually too high up and too busy scolding children to see me. But still, I wave. And I honk. And then they get annoyed. And then I think maybe I'm glad I'm not a bus driver because of jerks like me.